Chlamydia psittaci is a microscopic organism resembling a bacterium. The various strains of Chlamydia may infect a certain species of animal, including people. One strain infects birds and people, another strain infects cats and people, but none infects dogs.
Chlamydial conjunctivitis appears as swollen, congested, reddened tissue surrounding the clear, unaffected cornea. Small blisters (follicles) may develop on the conjunctiva. Typically one eye becomes infected, and then the other eye 10 to 20 days later.
The disease is spread by direct contact with the discharge from the eyes; therefore, always wash your hands after handling or treating infected cats.
Other cats in the household should be separated, if at all possible, especially during the early stages of the disease. Some individuals are more likely to contract the disease than others because of differences in natural resistance.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Laboratory tests, such as conjunctival scrapings, are used to confirm the diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. In later stages, the conjunctival scrapings usually do not reveal the specific inclusion bodies (elements that may be visualized in the affected cells that are characteristic of Chlamydia). Even though the scrapings are negative, they still have value by revealing other information that is helpful in managing your pet’s disorder.
2. Gently wipe the eyes with moist tissue or cotton to remove excess drainage and mucus. Added eye lubrication with artificial tears is helpful if the mucous membranes (conjunctiva) remain very red and irritated. Wash your hands after treating your cat.
3. Some cats may become carriers of the disease, and under stressful conditions it may recur.